I live in Canada - that means winter is COMING! Freezing cold days, less time outside and more hours of darkness mean that there are some things that I do to keep my health and nervous system functioning optimally in the winter season.
This winter I am extra mindful as I have a weight loss goal to focus on and maintain. If my nervous system spends too much time in the freeze response I will lose any and all progress as I go back to maintenance mode! PLUS we will be doing some travelling this winter - flying, long drives and being out of the environment that is set up for my success.
So I want to be intentional (NOT perfectionistic) about keeping myself in my window of tolerance or as close to it as humanly possible. Remember that in the window of tolerance EVERYTHING in the body functions optimally, not just mood. That means digestion, cellular health, hormone health, thyroid health, brain health etc.
While my nervous system has literally come leaps and bounds on a 14 year journey - it still has patterns of sensitivity as a result of severe childhood trauma. So to keep the progress going - I am sure to be extra careful to support my body in the winter months. It’s kind of like someone who is very fit - just because they have been very fit for years doesn’t mean they can simply stop being intentional about their fitness and health.
So I thought I’d share some of the things I do in the winter months:
Eat whole food carbohydrates with portion control:
Squashes (Zucchini, buttercup squash, butternut squash etc)
Rolled oats (not instant) usually ¼ cup serving
White Rice (I find white rice is amazing for energy and digestion)
Fruits (berries and banana)
Sourdough bread - I am not anti-gluten but certainly low gluten. However I love sourdough. Again - with portion control. And I love the process of fermenting my starter, prepping the dough and then baking the bread the next day.
Prioritizing Protein, Cruciferous Veggies & Healthy Fats
L-Tyrosine a building block for dopamine is present in protein from meat specifically.
And Healthy fats and fatty acids protect the brain and nervous system as our nerves are coated in fats.
I am aiming for between 100 - 130 grams of protein
And I am also aiming for 1000mg of essential fatty acids
Cruciferous veggies are high in vitamin C, have cancer fighting properties and have been associated with lower rates of depression
Sipping Bone Stocks/Broths
I love bone broth!
I like to make beef and chicken stock and bison (if I am lucky and the farmer’s market guy is selling it) . The whole ritual is so regulating for my system including chopping the ingredients, getting the bones from the local butcher, simmering the stock, straining and then sipping.
But more than the ritual - the warmth of the stock is amazing for keeping me out of freeze and the collagen supports my gut health which is essential for keeping gut inflammation at bay
I will be making a whole podcast episode on heat and sauna for the freeze response and nervous system repair so stay tuned for that!
I LOVE my sauna blanket - the one I use is by Higher-Dose. I stand by it being one of the best purchases I have ever made in my ENTIRE life. Sauna has so many health benefits including sleep, preventing dementia, promoting neuroplasticity, and increasing the length of your life. But more importantly for me - it is the benefit of getting the oxygen and blood flow going gently for coming out and staying out of the freeze response that makes my heart sing! If you don’t have a sauna blanket - you can use the sauna at your gym and get similar benefits
IV treatments are a priority for me in the winter. I receive a Meyer’s cocktail which includes Vitamin B, C and minerals like magnesium and Zinc. My Naturopath boosts my cocktail with glutathione, glycine and taurine.
At minimum during winter I like to receive one of these per months - however sometimes I increase the frequency based on what is happening in my life and nervous system.
Prioritize my basic somatic tools:
Orienting (engaging the body’s curious orienting system with the eyes, head and neck)
Grounding (simply feeling the feet on the floor - or my preferred method of laying on my tummy on a hard floor)
Containment (Self touch - touching the face, head, back of head. Holding oneself. Bringing in manual tools like a pillow and pressing it against the tummy)
Going outside for walks and sitting in the light:
This is hard to do in winter but MORE important in winter. What I like to do is wear my husbands snow pants and my extremely warm winter coat, gloves and hood and walk. It gives me time in the daylight and also because I am so bundled up it helps me sweat. Which means my body is eliminating toxins at the same time.
This year I may look into a lamp as I’ve never used one.
Physical Activity and Strength Training.
I like to walk between 8 - 10k daily in nice weather. However, in winter I usually manage about 5k a day. So I have purchased a mini stepper for my office to use to make sure I keep moving.
I am slowly building my strength back to where it once was by incorporating heavy lifting twice a week for now because I know muscle mass is so important for women as we age, and for hormone balance which is essential for keeping the nervous system in a regulated state.
Prayer, Fasting and REading God’s Word.
I am going to do an episode on some of the biological benefits of this - but suffice it to say that drawing near to the Lord is one of the most nervous system regulating things we can do as believers!
Gathering with Believers at Church
Spending time in community with fellow-believers at church worshiping God and hearing the Word preached.
The co-regulation of singing praise to God and experiencing His presence together with other believers is INCOMPARABLE. The only thing better than being in the presence of God is being in His presence with other believers. This is a priority for health at all levels - mind, soul and body.
This is not all of the things I will be intentionally focusing on this winter. But these are the main places where I am focusing my intentions. Its important to say that if you are looking to incorporate any new routine what is most important is your ability to be present and connected to your body and add and takeaway based on your nervous system capacity.
This is the missing piece in most personal development and trauma healing methods.
It’s important not just to do things to check off a list. Instead, TRACK TRACK TRACK your nervous system as you do these things. Because the ability of your nervous system to stay connected and get the neuroplasticity benefits of any protocol is dependent on you not being too far outside of your window of tolerance.
I might even say that more important than doing any of these things is to first learn how to track your nervous system and understand your nervous system. Titrate based on where your nervous system capacity is. This allows you to know when to change up the routine, eliminate or add things, and get the full benefit of whatever protocol you are doing.
Put them in the comments!
PS - THE LIVE RENEW CLASS is happening on October 19th! And it’s all about neuroplasticity. We are looking at the nervous system and physical components of neuroplasticity that you can implement on your recovery journey. AND we are looking at how the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word can actually increase your positive neuroplasticity so that you can be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Register at the link in comments.
Specifically, here is what we are looking at during the live class:
-3 Key Tools to Access the Power of Neuroplasticity and get started in Repairing your Nervous System that You can use right away
-How to support your brain and nervous system to adapt to safety, balance and resilience
-Break Free from old mindsets and trauma patterns that seem to keep you stuck in unhealthy habits, coping mechanisms and chronic health conditions
-Understand how chronic stress and the freeze response prevent neuroplastic healing
-The Power of God’s Word and the Gospel to bring health to our physical, mental and emotional self